Review Roundup - Sunstroke?


Why is this so long and drawn out? I appreciate an epic Western here and there and length isn't immediately detrimental to a story, but this outstays it's welcome by an hour - at least. There's a lean 90 minute adventure film here under all the chaff, but for whatever reason it's an exercise in flabby and impotent cinema. There are a lot of big pacing issues here which aren't helped by useless book end sequences set years after the story takes place, and it fails to either be a fun blockbuster or a serious drama - there's an identity crisis going on between the Disney style Johnny Depp mugging and the harder edged moments of the Old West genre.

Tonally the story is all over the place. Bordello scenes where prostitutes fire guns hidden in false legs (really) and comedy horse gags clash against bandit raids, railroad labour and moments where the big bad decides to eat part of his latest victim just for kicks. The pastiche and grit doesn't gel at all and it goes off the rails way too often, which is odd when they already have two separate train crashes in the plot. Outside the random elements of the script things don't improve much - the characters are instantly forgettable, as is the music outside the signature Overture theme. The titular hero is flat and doesn't get any kind of proper arc, while Tonto gets both drama and slapstick to deal with and neither works. Is he mystical or just cracked? Does it matter? It feels empty a lot of the time and so much should have been left on the cutting room floor to make it flow properly.

As a Summer action movie, it should have at least been punchy and slick, but the fleeting moments during some of the set pieces that feel engaging are rare - it's too much like struggling to cross a desert rather than the breezy ride I was expecting. It does look pretty good in places, the panoramic shots and real locations work nicely but in the end it's wasted. All that troubled development perhaps took it's toll, but that's no excuse for all the excess. Someone should have taken the reigns and decided what genre this was going to be. Besides, Gore Verbinksi already did a great western. It was called Rango.